PALMETTO -- It's quiet these days at Slick's Garage. That's a strange thing for the Fifth Street West car-customizing shop, which has become known for its wild classic car rebuilds, television appearances and its monthly, onsite car shows.
The garage doors are down and the parking lot is largely empty, except during the shop's famous "First Fridays" charity car shows that draw 50 to 100 cars to the shop on the first Friday of each month. But don't mistake the quiet for a "closed for business" sign. Slick's owners just need a little privacy to finish some car work, and to consider their future as the stars of a car-oriented television show.
"We have everything closed at the moment because it is season," said Jane Hunter, who co-owns the business with her husband, Slick. "During season, we get so many visitors it's hard to get anything done."
At the moment, the staff at Slick's is working to finish a custom car for the Spring Break Nationals in Daytona. But the customization may be one of the last for the garage. Slick's staff recently filmed a television pilot that could have the shop on the small screen on a regular basis. Hunter said contract restrictions prevent her from saying what the show will be about or where it might air.
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If the show goes ahead, Slick's will no longer customize for private clients. The garage will finish all the work it currently has in the shop, then go Hollywood.
"Once it gets going, we'll clear the jobs in the shop and just do TV," Hunter said.
It won't be the shop's first go-around with television. It has been featured on Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" and Tuff TV's "Tail Fins and Chrome." Slick's Garage also recently hosted a film crew shooting a scene for a movie featuring boxing heavyweight champion China "The Dragon" Smith.
While they may become darlings of TV-watching car fans around the nation, Hunter said she and Slick don't feel particularly beloved in Palmetto. She contends the city has inconsistently enforced its screening ordinance, forcing Slick's to install view-blocking fencing around its car lot while allowing other similar businesses to remain unscreened.
"They only asked us to do it," she said.
The fencing probably won't wind up being a curse, even if it has frustrated old car buffs wanting to see the classic cars Slick's keeps on the lot. If the television gig takes off, Hunter said the shop will probably need even more screening because the garage will become a tourist attraction.
Palmetto City Hall hasn't been entirely happy with Slick's car-customizing operation over the past four years. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said she would be pleased if the business moved away from working on cars downtown. She is particularly concerned about the car bodies and salvage the business stores on its 1-plus-acre lot.
"I have gotten many, many, many complaints about the parts of vehicles he stores there," Groover Bryant said.
But she is encouraged the cars remaining in the lot are ongoing projects that will be finished for customers. She also noted the shop has no active code enforcement issues with the city.
Disagreements with the city, current or past, won't put a damper on Hunter's and Slick's plans. Hunter said the garage is there to stay.
Slick's next car show is scheduled for April 4, the opening day of the three-day DeSoto Seafood Festival. The garage, which usually holds the show along 10th Avenue West and Fifth Street West, will confine the show to its own lot. Hunter said she doesn't want the show to create an unsafe traffic situation.
Proceeds from car registration at the events are donated to the Palmetto Youth Center and other charitable causes.
The 10th Avenue West neighborhood around Slick's Garage is getting busier, and is drawing new business and employers.
Across the street, the owner of the historic Olympia Theater will open a recording studio in the building when he finishes renovations.
Manatee County Rural Health Services recently moved 80 employees into the Bank of America building, and It Works! Global is bringing more than 100 employees to Riverside Plaza in early May.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter at MattAtBradenton.